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Printed Electronics World
Posted on February 10, 2006 by  & 

Impressions from Printed Electronics USA 05 2/3

Increasing realisation that you should walk before you run
Dr Tommi Wilson Kelley of 3M said "We are trying hard not to over-engineer our devices" and that was indeed a recurring theme of the conference. Speaking on "Larger Area, Lower Resolution OLED Displays" she showed flexible passive matrix OLEDs "Making devices that seem good, or at least good enough, using whatever technologies are available at the time." One example was a simple one hundred pixel OLED display.
The cornucopia of saleable products from T-ink and others
T-ink and others showed how many of these technologies can (and often are) being exploited profitably in primitive form right now and the participants certainly concurred. We saw interactive speaking tablecloths and paper toys demonstrated, iPod pillows, electronically active lottery tickets, printed cooling systems and radio shower curtains are being developed and interactive light emitting and sound emitting packaging is clearly going to become commonplace, often in paper. MeadWestvaco shared concepts of error preventing and event recording healthcare packaging as well as packaging that is electronically reconfigurable so it can be used for a different purpose instead of being trashed when empty. Cypak described a fully printed smart card with keyboard and a 30 cent printed RFID reader.
More organisations needed to commercialise today's printed electronics
The toolkit used by the painfully few innovators actually in the marketplace today is more comprehensive than is commonly realised. Conductors, sensors, batteries, displays, directionally conductive adhesive and more are available today and their imaginative use by VTT Technology of Finland, T-Ink of the US and a handful of others is pivotal in the market. Many delegates had already got that message and had their own devices under development , an example being medical disposables. Several had already done deals with presenter NXT which has a transparent laminar loudspeaker that can be cheap enough to be disposable, yet give excellent sound and even double as a microphone. Such a microphone has zero footprint - you laminate it on your product. Klaus Schroeter of Nanoident Technologies described how his optoelectronic sensors are unusually wide, thin, flexible, light weight and disposable.
At last - greater consideration of environmental issues
It was good to see environmental issues come to prominence. It drives the use of paper almost as much as cost does, but concern about ionic silver as well as cost has now led to copper conductive ink being offered, though only for screen printing as yet. It cures at low temperature. Geva Barash of Paralec, a leader in highly conductive inks, said that recycling is going to be a big issue within a few years. However, he felt that copper inks are still a problem because of the need for clean printing areas and avoidance of oxidation. He is working on printed chipless RFID.
Realisation that there is a lot of business to be had with non-OLED displays
Another healthy development was the increasing interest in non OLED displays because although OLEDs are being developed by more companies than those working on other displays and logic, this over-emphasised their importance in our view. Electrochromic, electrophoretic and electrochemical displays received good exposure and their proponents reported many successes at least in terms of successful trials and license deals. The only disappointment was the announcement that Xerox is shutting its Gyricon electrophoretic facility and will now do nothing more than license the technology. It failed to get low cost ($10 per square foot) backplanes for the low cost non-volatile signage it wished to sell. However, for every non-OLED display operation that folds, several new ones appear. Probably reflecting the future trend, Aveso is only offering complete working displays with drive circuits and, where necessary, power.
Poor progress in making organic conductors conduct
Many new formulations of conductor were announced, but getting conductance of more than one hundredth of a Siemens is still elusive.
See the final part of this article on Monday. To learn more, attend Printed Electronics Europe 2006 External Link.

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Posted on: February 10, 2006

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